Please help the world's pickiest drinker drink.
May 3, 2016 11:21 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite drinks or cocktails that are both low carb and don't involve anything sugar-free? Even more caveats inside!

Okay so I'm looking for drinks or cocktails that meet the following criteria:

1. Alcoholic.

2. Low carb. Anything under 5g net carbs per drink will work, but the fewer the better.

3. No sugar-free products, please. Regardless of diet, I personally don't care for sweet alcohol. Natural sweetness is good, anything more than that is too sweet. I also don't care for the taste of the sugar-free sweeteners I've tried, like stevia and erythritol.

4. Right now I'm particularly interested in more summery drinks, light and flavorful. I'm definitely open to fall/winter drink suggestions though.

5. Bonus points if it's something I can order at a bar without inconveniencing your standard bartender. Most of my drinking is done at home or at friends' so I can make them myself, but I'm always looking for more things to drink when I go out.

I currently drink whiskey and scotch with a little ice, vodka or gin and soda with lime, and drier white wines. But I'm getting bored of them, I want to drink more things!

To give you a sense of what I do like (which is actually a lot, I swear!): ginger and honey are my favorite flavors, I like bitter stuff, I like spicy stuff (both in the sense of hot and the sense of like, natural chai tea), I do like cream in my drinks on occasion.

Nothing is too complicated or too simple, and I have Amazon Prime so I have access to your stranger ingredients if need be.

posted by moons in june to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Gin gimlet. If you want it on the sweeter side, tell them to add some St. Germain.
posted by lecorbeau at 11:25 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kahlua in black coffee.
posted by Michele in California at 11:26 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bitters are your best friend for this, since they add flavor with just a few drops (and thus minimal carbs, etc). There's a whole world out there, but to start gin + soda + a few dashes of angostura bitters is a fabulous drink (it's also good without the seltzer, gin and angostura is a classic British cocktail called a Pink Gin).
posted by Itaxpica at 11:27 AM on May 3, 2016 [9 favorites]

I'm a big fan of La Croix sparkling water. Try the lime flavor with gin or raspberry vodka, or the berry flavor with plain vodka.
posted by saturngirl at 11:31 AM on May 3, 2016 [8 favorites]

I do not mean to thread sit, but please note that I would like less than 5g carbs per drink. A gin gimlet uses simple syrup which I don't know how to make without sugary (and therefore carby) or sugar-free ingredients. If there's a way, please share! The suggestion of St. Germain is 11g carbs per 1 oz and Kahlua is 14g carbs per serving.

I know it's a tall order, but that's why I'm turning to you all!
posted by moons in june at 11:33 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Vodka and soda with a lime wedge.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:42 AM on May 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

My go-to drink for all purposes including not getting overly fat is Vodka + Soda + Bitters.

There are tons of bitters. Rhubarb and Peach are super nice for summer.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:42 AM on May 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

Tequila on the rocks and a lime. Then squeeze the lime into the glass. I've never heard of anyone else who drinks this, but it's very tasty and refreshing and almost every bartender is going to be fine with it.
posted by mchorn at 11:43 AM on May 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

Sazerac? That site says it would have about 4g of carbs, mostly from the sugar cube I think.
posted by cabingirl at 11:48 AM on May 3, 2016

Alcohol on Your Low Carb Lifestyle Revisited Includes Low Carb Mockahlua Recipe

Ignore the Mockahlua recipe. It doesn't meet your criteria. But the rest of the article should be of interest.

Some other alcohol in coffee. It meets your criteria for bitter flavors being a good thing.
posted by Michele in California at 11:48 AM on May 3, 2016

Gin and tonic
posted by MsMolly at 11:48 AM on May 3, 2016

What about a dirty martini? If it's done in a nice bar, they have a bottled brine they use (not the drippings from the olive tray) and it's delicious. Not sure about carbs in vermouth, but any bartender should be able to make you a dry Manhattan, and those are tasty.

A classic sidecar isn't too bad. You could go a little easier on the cointreau (looks like 1 ounce has 7 carbs, so the 3/4 called for in the recipe linked is doable).

One trick at a bar is to ask the bartender or waitstaff about dry cocktails they offer. If you're in a more upscale place that does a lot of handcrafted cocktails, they should be helpful. I've often ordered a drink with the request to make it "not too sweet" and they'll go easier on the sweetener. Of course it will help if you focus on a selection that only has one sweet element, so that they can just add that one as a dash.

For an at home cocktail this one looks good. It has ginger, lemon, whiskey and a honey syrup. I think you could just customize the amount of the honey syrup to your liking.

Muddled herbs could be your friend. You can muddle mint, rosemarey or basil, add your alcohol of choice, a splash of citrus and some soda water. It looks like Q Tonic is an agave-based tonic water with less carbs, so that might be a way to go if you want to mix it up with tonic water.
posted by LKWorking at 11:50 AM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

You could do a salty dog (vodka, grapefruit juice, salt rim) short on the grapefruit juice. 2oz of grapefruit juice would come in at 5.5g carbs. If a bar has the grapefruit juice, it'd be pretty simple to make and measure.
posted by pennypiper at 11:50 AM on May 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Pink gin. Swish a few drops of Angostura bitters around the inside of a chilled glass, then add chilled gin.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:00 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're into gin, soda, and lime for the summer, remember that there are a ton of good gins out there that tasty remarkably different. From classic Blackfriar's to Hendrick's to Caorunn. Pair them with different garnishes: lime, cucumber, orange, apple and clove, etc., and the flavors vary tremendously.

I'm also a big fan of kicking flavors in with dark rums. One of my recent favorites: a fairly cheap dark rum (e.g., Goslings Black), one or two crushed slices of fresh ginger, and a generous squeeze of lime. It's like a low-carb dark and stormy, I suppose.
posted by introp at 12:04 PM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

grapefruit juice and whiskey mixes well surprisingly
posted by monologish at 12:06 PM on May 3, 2016

bourbon & lemonade (for some 'low carb/sugar' definitions of lemonade)
posted by j_curiouser at 12:13 PM on May 3, 2016

Campari and soda perhaps? The internet tells me Campari has 8g carbs/oz, which is getting close to your goal.
posted by zachlipton at 12:19 PM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

La Croix flavored fizzy water (ESPECIALLY the curate line) + alcohol is great. Simple combo: cherry lime La Croix + shot of vodka. Serve over ice.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:34 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sounds like a classic Margarita is just outside of your carb limit: 2oz tequila, 1oz Cointreau, 1oz lime juice. No simple syrup.
posted by mr vino at 12:36 PM on May 3, 2016

Do you like Malibu rum? One of the best drinks I've had was Malibu Rum + Sprite, but I'm sure you could just use seltzer and lime. The coconut makes it really tasty and gives off a sweet feeling.
posted by yueliang at 12:36 PM on May 3, 2016

I have been big lately on infused soda water (water infused with thyme/cucumber/berries/basil/whatever "spa water" recipe you can find) + booze. Note that you can make spa water with carbonated water. I have a soda stream which I love. I also love soda + splash of citrus or soda + bitters and booze. La Croix water is awesome (also, Topo Chico) but I just couldn't justify buying and disposing of all those cans/bottles, hence the soda stream.
posted by Brittanie at 12:48 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

White wine spritzer - dry white wine, seltzer water, and bitters.
Michelada - modelo especial (4g carb in one can) with lime juice and hot sauce over ice (there are other versions of Micheladas that you can explore too)
posted by BooneTheCowboyToy at 12:48 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tequila shots!
posted by heathrowga at 12:51 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I drink low-carb and like the Northern California Margarita - tequila, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and soda water. No cloying sweetness while still being quite tasty.

I also like my take on a low-carb shandy: Miller Lite (3.5 carbs), healthy squeeze of lemon juice, and grated ginger or my home made ginger concentrate. To make ginger concentrate, I boil a large, chopped up piece of peeled ginger in several cups of water until it's reduced by half. Then, strain and throw in the fridge and use for cocktails. You could also freeze it in cubes if you don't think you can drink through it fast enough.

If you don't mind an easy project, I make giant jars of infused vodka, especially in the summer when berries are around. I've made raspberry and strawberry by just putting chopped fruit in vodka for a few weeks (shake every couple of days). Other things that work well are grapefruit or Meyer lemon peel, and I've also made it with quince, persimmon, and other slightly unusual fruit. I have several jars in the pantry and they also make a great gift. I bet ginger would be super tasty. I drink them with soda water. Very bright and delicious. Vodka of the Gods from Trader Joe's (in a plastic bottle) is a great base vodka for this as it's cheap and has no off flavors.
posted by quince at 1:16 PM on May 3, 2016 [11 favorites]

I'm a big fan of the Butler Miller. Vodka with a splash of Chambord and a squeeze of lime. It's potent, too, so you don't need many.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:43 PM on May 3, 2016

Ooh, yeah, +1 for infused vodka. All you need is vodka and some jars. You can do classic fruit flavors, or get interesting with herbs and spices. Garlic infused vodka is one of my favorites. Yes, seriously.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:55 PM on May 3, 2016

These are all amazing answers, thank you! I marked the "best answers" for being extra creative, for-real under 5g carbs, and not sweet.

I've especially loved the suggestions for types of bitters, La Croix, suggestions for herbs to muddle and berries to add.

And just basically every word of quince's post. My god, thank you for that.
posted by moons in june at 2:11 PM on May 3, 2016

Ooh how about a low carb Moscow mule with ginger infused vodka, lime juice and seltzer water?
posted by MadamM at 3:00 PM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is really simple, but for a gin and soda, I love replacing the slice of lime with a few slices of lemon or orange.
posted by sallybrown at 3:28 PM on May 3, 2016

Highball glass, crushed ice, shot of vodka, shot of Bols green (or other melon liqueur), top with club soda.

Refreshing, slightly sweet, stronger than it tastes.
posted by porpoise at 3:30 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

You will probably be pleasantly surprised with some of the classic cocktails, I'd recommend old fashioned and Manhattan to start.
posted by mikek at 3:56 PM on May 3, 2016

Ace Joker Hard Cider is 3g of Carbs/sugar, 190 cal each and 6.9% alcohol. Not sweet at all for a cider, very tart/dry.
posted by Craig at 5:26 PM on May 3, 2016

I love doing vodka sodas with a splash of something - like just a dash of cranberry juice (I have successfully ordered this in bars) or vodka soda with just a teaspoon of kahlua - it actually ends up tasting very lightly caramel.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:06 PM on May 3, 2016

Unsweetened ice tea comes in a million flavors and makes an excellent mixer. For example two parts iced tea, one part lemonade, one part vodka (or any other liquor) over ice.

Or muddle some strawberries with some blueberry green tea and add vodka. Or mix bourbon and iced mint tea. Garnish any of these with fresh herbs or citrus peel. It's fun to experiment.
posted by mai at 7:09 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've suggested this in past drink questions, but here it is again. I like to add artisan balsamic infused vinegars to gin or bourbon & whatever mixer you like--charged water, tonic--or just straight. Good in just charged water, too, with lemon or lime or any fruit/vegetable infused water. People, including the producers, raise their eyebrows when I tell people this, but I think they are a great alternative to sweet drinks. You don't need much & they come in many flavors.

This is my local producer, but you could probably make your own or find a local producer. That Yucatan really packs a punch. My two favorites aren't listed--Thyme Black Peppercorn & Cinnamon Clove. The Blueberry is good, too. You don't need much, so experiment with different amounts if you try it. (I have a long dropper/pipette thing to be more precise, after adding too much by pouring.) Plus they smell great.

posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 8:59 PM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

I make l kinds of cocktails without the sugar. An Aviator (gin+lemon+float of Creme de Violette) is marvelous even without the sugar. My current favorite is a Lion's Tail (whiskey, allspice dram, lime and a dash of bitters).

But, as has been said said, bitters are your friend. Angostura, orange, cherry, peach bitters make even a glass of seltzer delicious.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:14 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

The next time you're at a bar that looks like it might have these ingredients, try a Manhattan made with Rittenhouse rye and Antica vermouth. I copied my friend's order of this and was pretty blown away.
posted by peacheater at 9:22 PM on May 3, 2016

I usually do a twist on vodka/soda by using flavored vodka like Absolut Mandarin, plus a generous squeeze of orange or lime.
posted by radioamy at 10:17 AM on May 4, 2016

Oh and I agree about iced tea being a great mixer! Iced black tea plus spiced rum is great. I also really like iced watermelon-mint tea with vodka.
posted by radioamy at 10:18 AM on May 4, 2016

If you like licorice/anise-type flavors (which I know can be polarizing; people seem to love or hate them), there's always absinthe (my personal favorite; good brands I've tried are Vilya Spirits, La Clandestine, Delaware Phoenix, and Pacifique; stay away from anything with artificial coloring; the real deal won't have that or added sugars). Many people prepare it with sugar, but you don't HAVE to; I find that the anise has its own natural sweet-spicy notes. Prepare with 1 part absinthe to 3-5 parts cold water, and you get a gloriously refreshing treat. Ouzo is also anise-based but (IMO) less complex/herbal, however, if you like that flavor profile at all, it is delicious prepared similarly and definitely usually cheaper.
posted by aecorwin at 1:18 PM on May 4, 2016

A Lime Rickey.
Vodka/Gin, soda water, lime cordial (use as little or as much as you want, Angosturas Bitters(I use lots)
Bonus video of Tim Rogers and The Bamboo's performing Lime Rickey off their latest album :-)
posted by drinkmaildave at 9:24 AM on May 5, 2016

We're partial to unsweetened peppermint iced tea in our house, which when combined with bourbon, is a perfectly acceptable diet-mint julep. We make the iced tea ourselves, so we know there's no sugar.
posted by mchorn at 9:54 AM on May 5, 2016

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